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Thursday's Daily Pulse

In search for new crop, an ancient possibility

After a 35-year career in citrus, the state's signature agricultural commodity, Bill Castle would like to help Florida growers diversify. So he chose pomegranates as a candidate for Florida's next commercial crop. The early buzz is encouraging, said Castle, a professor of horticulture at the UF Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred. He has passed out about 7,500 pomegranate plants to more than 60 people and companies. Most of them are interested in developing a commercial enterprise. [Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune]

Home builders group opposes drywall legislation

The National Association of Home Builders is moving to fight a bill that would impose new limitations and regulations on wallboard in the wake of the Chinese drywall saga. While applauding efforts by Congress and the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission "to investigate the source of the drywall problem and determine the appropriate response," the NAHB said it would oppose the amended Contaminated Drywall Safety Act.

Seeking Nominations
Floridian of the Year
Florida Trend is taking nominations for its 2013 Floridian of the Year issue. Remember: This isn't a lifetime achievement award. We're looking for the Floridians who you think had the biggest impact on the state during 2012. Please email us here.

James Tobin III, the NAHB's senior vice president, said his trade organization also is concerned that the proposed law would standardize a "new regulatory regime that will broaden the CPSC's regulatory authority." [Source: Herald-Tribune]

Pediatricians say health agency won't meet about issues

With the clock ticking on Florida's ability to control how it applies the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, pediatricians say they've been trying to meet with the agency that oversees the state's Medicaid program --- to no avail. The Agency for Health Care Administration last month declined a request from the Florida Pediatric Society to discuss how the state will implement those aspects of the federal health-care overhaul that relate to children. "Whatever program is ultimately designed, there are risks where children could fall through the cracks in a system that's really oriented to adults," said Sam Bell, a lobbyist for the pediatricians' group.  AHCA, however, refused the meeting because the group is suing it over another matter. [Source: News Service of Fla.]

Florida Trend Legal Profile

'Handful of aces:' Attorney Timothy Moran finds his niche

Timothy A. Moran

Florida Trend writer Art Levy interviewed Timothy Moran recently, learning about the long path this 35-year-old attorney has already taken. From the interview:

Moran ended up logging more than 600 hours of pro bono work for more than 150 low-income clients. Several of the cases stick out for Moran. He worked to save the home of one woman who was dying of cancer. He helped another, who had previously lost her property, to get her house back free and clear. He remembers the day he told her that the house was hers and she asked him, almost as if she couldn’t quite believe him, if she really was allowed to plant tulips in her yard again. “If that isn’t what it’s all about,” Moran says, “I don’t know what is.”
Full interview is here.

Darden increases clout; Quadruples PAC donations to $684K

Darden Restaurants is seeking to widen its influence in Washington, funneling four times as much money to congressional candidates and political parties as it did four years ago. Its political-action committee has contributed $684,000 so far in this two-year election cycle. In 2008, the PAC disbursed $159,700. Two years ago, that grew to just more than $400,000. The Orlando-based company's contributions reflect a growing desire to become more influential in national politics, Darden leaders say. The world's largest full-service dining company, it weighs in on everything from food safety to taxes. [Source: Sentinel]


› Legislative leaders call for comprehensive gambling review
Florida needs a new gambling policy that covers racinos, Seminole casinos, Internet betting parlors and proposals for huge Las Vegas-style casinos, legislative leaders say.  Also: Immokalee's Seminole Casino aims for more partnerships with SW Florida businesses

› State Farm approved to raise insurance rates 6 percent
It's the fifth increase approved for State Farm's home insurance policies in Florida since late 2009.

› Attorney general files suit against land trusts
The assets and operations of several South Florida land trust companies, related firms and their owners were frozen by the state attorney general’s office Tuesday in a complaint claiming they made promises to struggling homeowners they can’t fulfill. The companies sold hundreds of homeowners statewide on a complicated legal “scheme."

› UF ranked No. 2 for 'Best Academic Deal'
In the last two decades, the cost of college tuition has nearly tripled after accounting for inflation. A new study revealed that as a percentage of the cost of tuition and fees, University of Florida graduates earn more money than students at most other schools.

Go to page 2 for more stories ...

› NFL refs to return tonight 
After two days of marathon negotiations — and mounting frustration throughout the league — the NFL and the officials' union announced at midnight Thursday that a tentative eight-year agreement had been reached to end a lockout that began in June.

› Florida's five governors to gather at UF to discuss state's future
The Florida Law Review announces its second annual gathering of Florida's living governors with a lecture entitled “Florida’s Future: A Conversation with Florida Governors,” in the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, Oct. 12. The program features Govs. Reubin Askew, Bob Graham, Bob Martinez, Buddy MacKay and Charlie Crist.

› Senator calls for grand jury investigation into FSCJ problems
The audit raised questions about college President Steve Wallace’s contract moving almost 100 days of unused sick leave into his vacation, making it money he could be paid if he left. The audit deemed the move illegal. Although college executives and the board disagreed, they removed the provision, and Wallace repaid the money.

› Fla. sends election offices list of 198 potential noncitizens
The decision to push ahead with the noncitizen voter-purge program just 41 days before Election Day in the nation’s biggest battleground state is already the subject of three separate federal lawsuits from a coalition of liberal-leaning groups as well as President Obama’s Justice Department.